‘You had fan mail yesterday, Dedushka!’ Hannibal announced cheerfully as he dropped his overloaded schoolbag smack on top of a precious, delicate first edition Candide.
At the other end of the kitchen table, the fair Ivana grunted. ‘Fan mail ain’t the word for it,’ her honeyed voice sternly spoke. ‘Feedback comes closer. Neither of these fellows loves you. They’re hostile. Could cut mama’s whole-wheat bread with their attitude if it only were iron…’
I took a sip of my morning coffee and digested the news slowly. I do not mind my godchildren stopping by on their way to the school bus, dear reader. But I am not at my best at 9 in the morning, particularly the day after the introduction of that blasted Daylight Saving Time. You can’t fall asleep at night and you can’t get up in the morning. Or to put it differently: whatever energy we save in the light bulbs, we squander again to kick-start our biorhythm. But I guess the planet fares well because of the silly measure…
‘One way or the other,’ I spoke when at last I had made up my mind, ‘I welcome them. The great Julio once said he’d rather they printed a lie about him on the front page, than the truth on page 7. Alfred B. Mittington concurs. It’s far better the audience attacks you than neglects you.’
‘Julius Caesar said that?’ Hannibal asked stupefied.
‘Of course not. Julio Iglesias. The singer. Never mind. Let’s hear the feedback. Do your worst…’
‘Well… The first one comes from a fellow in California,’ Ivana enunciated with perfect diction. ‘Indirectly by way of that Liverpool pal of yours, what’s his name? Yeah: him, the Davies person. Here you have it,’ her lily-white hand graciously slipped a printed piece of paper my undeserving way over the tabletop. ‘It’s about your last Mayo post and seems friendly enough. But there’s venom in the tail…’
I must admit I have moral qualms about reading other people’s correspondence, reader. But a quick perusal taught me that I was the main subject of this exchange, which worked quite soothingly on my terribly tormented conscience. A man has copyright on his own existence, has he not? So I put on my reading glasses and studied the message. Here is what it said:
Just a note to let you know how much I'm enjoying your new format. I also must make a comment about Alfie's "treatment of mayonnaise by a food processor." I never expected anyone to have to mention Greek philosophers, a vibrator, nor a nail gun in the same text when describing what not to do when making mayonnaise. I can only compare his extraordinary ability to write with the miss usage of the power tools he mentioned. As we say in Spanish..."El papel aguanta todo lo que se escribe."
‘Well,’ I said, removing my glasses. ‘That seems positive enough to me… The gentleman obviously enjoyed the post and appreciated the sledge hammer use of the similes… Not to mention he knows that Socrates and Aristotle were Greeks… How often do you find that these days?’
I saw Hannibal look puzzled. ‘The PM was Greek?’ he exclaimed. ‘No wonder Portugal’s in the same bloody mess as Greece!’
The fair Ivana moaned deeply and I could not blame her.
‘Another Socrates, my boy,’ I said as patiently as possible. ‘One you didn’t want to get too close to with those cute legs of yours. Though he sure paid the price for his little passtimes. They made him drink hemlock for spoiling the youths of Athens…’
‘Speaking of which,’ Ivana interrupted me, with all the justice in the world. ‘As I said: the poison’s in the tail. He compares your writing skills with the abuse of machinery for that icky sauce… So. Are you still so positive, Alfred?’
‘My dear dear girl,’ I exclaimed full of appreciation for her godfilial concern. ‘If you only knew what Céline used to write about my penmanship, and Cela, and Hermans, and Linus Purseberry… Not to mention that unshaven pot plant George Bernard Shaw… You would understand that I take an insult such as this – if an insult it be – with the merriest of laughs an old man can muster! I can only say the fellow plays back the ball that I put in his court. A fair fight! I hail him as a dignified adversary. May he thrive in whatever he does…! I wish him well!’
Sparkle-eyed Ivana watched me with indubitably justified scorn. ‘Beati pauperes…’ I could hear her mutter. ‘It’s getting late. Can we move to the next one? You´ll get enough Fair Fight from him as well…’
‘Of course, my wise one. What is the nature of the other message?’
‘A bullfight aficionado took you on in a comment to your Bloodsport post,’ Hannibal blurted out, with obvious relish at the coming tempest. ‘Boy, does he take you on! I wouldn’t dare to do so if I were in Chaves and you were here with a crowbar!’
‘Oh God!’ judicious Ivana muttered under her breath.
‘Is there a name?’ I asked.
‘Anonymous of course,’ the boy said with eager glitter in his eyes. ‘He’s a coward, Dedushka! And he’s provoking you as much he can! Want me to trace who he is? I can easily do it! I only have to look at his word processor subscription in the source codes of---’
‘Now now! Let’s not run ahead of ourselves,’ I spoke in compliance with Ivana’s menacing frown. ‘Let’s take a look at the lethal assault first.’ I held out my hand and received a messy print full of rambling language, as free from any lay-out as downtown Hiroshima after they dropped Little Boy on top of her (the text of which you, dear reader, may see at the end of the post if you click here).
Once again from behind my reading glasses, I ran my eyes quickly over the tedious text. It was business as usual. The same old arguments, the same warped logic, the same play with high moral concepts which somehow shored up the vilest human conduct. Hannibal, however, was as exited as I was unimpressed.
‘Are you going to whack him, Dedushka?’ he asked with burning anticipation.
‘Whack him? Why should I wish to whack him?’
‘Oh, only on paper, I mean… Not with a stick or so… Are you going to take him on?’
I shook my head calmly. ‘My dear boy,’ I said. ‘You do not understand how this works. Take an example in the serene demeanour of your sister. She is wise beyond her years. She knows…! As I wrote in that self-same post: no measure of logical arguments will make barbarians see the moral light. They do not have the brain lobes for civilised insights. No place to store ethical concepts anywhere among their primitive neurons. So one does not argue with them. It is a waste of breath. We merely let them ramble, and enjoy the spectacle.
‘You see,’ I smiled from one to the other. ‘Whenever I write one of these anti-taurino texts, I hope that it hurts. And I am always mighty happy to see that it does… The buggers can’t possibly let a contrary opinion pass them by. They must react. They must pour a Niagara Falls of abuse over even the smallest objection to their beloved butchery. And they always come up with the same set of bland, worn-out drivel. This fellow as well. Just LOOK at this text. Business as usual I say! It contains each and every one of the common false syllogisms that these under-educated curs employ: The bullfight is an art… It is old… It is a fair fight… The bulls do not suffer… There is much worse elsewhere and why don’t you object to that?...You eat meat so you have no right to speak… You are a foreigner and you don’t understand its mystery… Bah! No fun in fighting any of that baloney. Been there, done that, let it rot. I have better things to do. I’m working on my next Mayonnaise post, for people of taste and sophistication like Mr J.L.Q.!’
A hard slap of a most shapely hand on the oak wood of the kitchen table stopped me from adding further thoughts.
‘Hannibal: bag!’ commanded the fair Ivana. ‘We gotta run for the bus.’ The two of them gathered their stuff and made for the door. But before leaving the kitchen, the deep-bosomed lass whom I surely would have married has she not been 75 years my junior turned on her curvaceous heels like a prima ballerina and spoke: ‘So. You are not only wordy and abstruse, but a hypocrite too…?’ With that, Helena of Troy disappeared into the mists of the Minho valley…
[SECRET POSTSCRIPT NOT TO BE READ BY MY GODCHILDREN :
To tell you the honest truth, dear reader, I am getting just this tiny itsy bitsy little bit weary of having to lick up to the whiles and capriccios of teenage demoiselles who do not seem to grasp that playing with Alfred B. Mittington’s patience is like fooling around with hell fire… And all that for three minutes help in this blogging business per week…]